The Atlanta Falcons featured a top ten offense in 2017. In any given year, that’d be sure to excite most fanbases. But not this year; not one year removed 2016’s historically prolific offense, an offense that put up 30+ points a game under Kyle Shanahan.
Ultimately that begs a simple question: what gives? Is it offensive coordinator Steve Sarkisian’s “disorganized” style? Is it the offense line? What the heck went wrong in 2017?
The answer isn’t as simple as the question. And to be frank, it’s simply a combination of missteps that caused the offense to regress. So let’s just talk about the offensive line for the moment.
There’s been a lot of chatter recently about needing to make upgrades at guard. Andy Levitre’s season ended in a triceps injury, plus he’s 31 years old. (He actually turns 32 in May.) Wes Schweitzer graded out as one of the NFL’s worst guards this season. (His PFF rating of 43.7 ranked 56th among qualifying guards.) While Levitre is under contract through 2018, Schweitzer still has two years remaining on his rookie deal.
I doubt Dimitroff will cut Levitre. His cap hit does balloon to $8.4 million in 2018, but he’d also represent $1.375 in dead money. Levitre’s production won’t be easily replicated, at least not in 2018 for approximately $7 million. He’s an average guard at this point in his career. It’s counterintuitive, but average offensive linemen are in short supply in today’s NFL. And as for Schweitzer, Dimitroff was happy to sing his praises before the Falcons lost in the divisional round. The front office is convinced he’s trending in the right direction, and they appear willing to stand by him as he continues to develop.
My best guess? The Falcons re-sign Ben Garland, let Sean Harlow develop, sign a backup or two, and draft a guard between rounds 4 and 6. In short, they aren’t going to make a splash draft pick or sign a premier free agent. If you wait around for them to do that, then you’ll be sorely disappointed.